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International journalist Kim Wall’s impressive career came to a violent end when the man she was interviewing for a story her murdered her.
“Undercurrent: The Disappearance of Kim Wall,” a new HBO two-part documentary looks back at Kim Wall's 2017 murder of Kim Wall, who was killed while reporting a story about the Danish inventor Peter Madsen's self-made submarine. She was supposed to be onboard the craft for just a few hours but after the vessel failed to return to shore, her boyfriend reported the submarine missing at sea.
The submarine was located the next day when Madsen surfaced — without Wall — and was rescued from the submarine as it began to sink. Wall, who had written stories for publications including the New York Times and Vice, was nowhere to be seen. Madsen claimed he had dropped her off the night before, on land, before the submarine failed.
But after a two-week search, Wall's torso was found in the water. Soon after, some of her other dismembered body parts, including her skull, were found by divers.
Madsen then switched his story. He said he dumped the Swedish journalist’s body at sea when she died after accidentally hitting her head on the submarine’s 155-pound hatch, ABC News reported in 2017. But the discovery of her intact skull proved he was lying. When confronted with the truth, he told investigators he wanted to kill himself but decided not to yet so he could see his wife and cats before doing so.
The following year, he changed his story yet again. This time, Madsen said Wall died of carbon monoxide poisoning after his vessel filled with toxic exhaust fumes, the BBC reported in 2018.
During his trial, however, prosecutors refuted the new story, and said Madsen murdered Wall as part of violent sexual fantasy, citing graphic footage found on his computer including images of women being murdered. They produced evidence that showed he brought the tools to bind and stab Wall. They also showed texts he'd deleted, but that were recovered, in which he told a friend he had planned the perfect murder for “great pleasure,” the New York Times reported in 2018.
Madsen was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life behind bars.
In October of 2020, Madsen briefly broke out of prison. He used both a fake gun and fake bomb he’d made in prison to get out, according to the Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison for the escape in 2021.
Before Wall’s murder, Madsen was regarded as something of a local celebrity in Denmark. He was known for being an entrepreneur and an inventor. He made several submarines, including the one used in the murder. He also founded a company to build spacecraft. He blogged regularly about spacecraft leading up to Wall’s murder.
A court-ordered psychiatrist determined that Madsen was a narcissistic psychopath, who lacked empathy, the New York Times reported in 2018. He is currently serving his sentence in Denmark.
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